UK is a 'magnet for illegal immigration' says Jenrick
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Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has claimed the UK is a “magnet for illegal” migration and the Government must explore all “routes and options” to “make less attractive” the dangerous crossing of the English Channel. Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Jenrick described the migrant crisis facing the UK as “challenging”, adding that relationships with France and Albania were paramount in discouraging asylum seekers from risking their lives “at the behest of criminal gangs”. Mr Jenrick was also forced to roll back comments from home secretary Suella Braverman in the Commons on Monday after critics, including Conservative MPs, accused her of demonising asylum seekers.
Mr Jenrick said: “We want to get to a point where, on the UK side, we are receiving people at Manston, processing them very swiftly, then sending them to accommodation such as hotels, or alternatives, and ensuring those hotels are evenly spread across the country, are as good value for the taxpayer as possible, that claims are processed swiftly – they are taking too long at the moment – and then those individuals, if they are successful, go on to lead fulfilling lives in the UK and make a contribution to this country.
“If they are not, they need to be removed from the UK as swiftly as possible. But that is essentially the symptom of the problem.
“It will always be challenging for the Home Office to handle those symptoms if the scale of the challenge is as great as it is today.
“So, we have to find ways – and there is no easy way to say this, I have to be straightforward with your listeners – to reduce the number of people crossing the Channel in small boats.
“We will do that through working with countries like France and the home secretary, and the new Prime Minister, are very keen, as am I, to build the most constructive relationship possible with our French counterparts.
“[We will also be] working with other countries around the world, like Albania, which are safe countries and from where we should be reducing the number of people crossing the Channel.
“And I am afraid we also have to pursue the other routes and options we have been looking at in recent years to make it less attractive for people making this dangerous crossing, to put themselves at the behest of criminal gangs, like the Rwanda policy, for example, because the UK right now is a magnet for illegal migration and we have got to change that.”
But the immigration minister later warned against demonising people seeking to come to the UK after Suella Braverman said England faces an “invasion” of migrants on the south coast.
Mr Jenrick said words have to be chosen very carefully as he distanced himself from the Cabinet minister’s choice of phrasing.
In a combative Commons performance on Monday, Ms Braverman denied ignoring legal advice to procure more accommodation amid warnings that a temporary holding centre at Manston in Kent is dangerously overcrowded.
With the Government spending £6.8 million a day putting up migrants in hotels – at an average cost of £150 per person per night – she insisted she was right to order a review of the way the system is working.
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But she faced criticism from some opposition MPs for inflaming the situation after she said the Government is committed to “stopping the invasion on our southern coast”.
Questioned about her comments, Mr Jenrick said: “It is not a phrase that I have used, but I do understand the need to be straightforward with the general public about the challenge that we as ministers face.” He later added that Ms Braverman had used the word “invasion” to describe the scale of the challenge.
“In a job like mine you have to choose your words very carefully. And I would never demonise people coming to this country in pursuit of a better life. I understand and appreciate our obligation to refugees,” he said. “The scale of the challenge we’re facing is very, very significant.”
Around 40,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats so far this year and Mr Jenrick acknowledged the number could reach 50,000. Home Office officials previously warned the total for 2022 could exceed 60,000.
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